Tension and Relaxation In The Countenance of a Saint

September 26, 2019

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

In the Vatican Gardens, Pope St. Pius X receives some distinguished visitors, who present him their homage. The Pope’s figure, erect and vigorous despite his years, gives an impression of discipline and firmness, but something in his person, especially his unclouded countenance, expresses repose and relaxation. The Saint is strolling in moments of leisure. His affable, almost affectionate smile and the gesture of his extended arm and opened hand express a sincere and paternal welcome. One notes the effect of the Pontiff’s presence in all who surround him: much respect, which does not exclude a pleasant and natural joy.  A Saint’s leisure, nevertheless, is never forgetful of his duties. Thus, one notes how attentive and penetrating is the Pontiff’s gaze as he considers the visitor who greets him. Saint Pius X was an excellent psychologist, and several people with whom he spoke had the impression that he read their hearts.

Let us consider the second picture. The gaze says everything. Firm, serene, lucid, it seems to peer with striking clarity, with sorrow but with courage, into a very distant horizon laden with heavy clouds. One has the impression that his soul has the same disposition of a captain who, surprised with the magnitude of an approaching storm, nevertheless stands ready to carry on in the rough course intrepidly. This resolution of the Holy Pope is perceived, moreover, in his whole being; even here his erect and strong figure conveys a lively impression of vigor in spite of his age.

His head, slightly inclined, and his body, almost impreceptibly bowed, reveal how great is the burden of this concerns. The Pope seems to have reached the height of his Calvary. His soul is greived by the sins of the world, and he sees from afar the chastisements accumulating on the horizon. It is the world war approaching, with its procession of material and moral disasters, and the political, social, economic, and, above all, religious ruins that will come in it wake. Nevertheless, his whole state of spirit is that of one who preserves a great interior peace: “Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter” (Isa. 38:17).

Ambiences, Costumes, Civilizations, Nº 47 – November 1954.

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